The earth needs a covering, just like our bodies need skin.
When I first heard this gardening principle, it really took me some time to understand what it meant. To really wrap my mind around all that it entails.
But now that I understand it more, it really does make a lot of sense.
In nature, undisturbed by humans, there are very few areas (besides beaches and sand dunes) that have exposed dirt. It simply does not exist in nature. The woods are a great example. There are layers upon layers of plant materials, leaves, twigs, etc on the forest floor before you get to the soil layer.
Grass lands or meadows are another great example. Each season, the plants die and fall to the ground. Followed by new plants that grow, followed by those plants dying and falling to the ground creating layers and layers of dead and decaying plant material that creates a covering for the earth.
When we dig or till, it creates a wound in the earth’s “skin” layer and just like when you have a wound on your body, the earth creates a “scab” of quick growing weeds on it’s skin to protect it.
If we keep a covering on the earth, Mother Nature does not need to create a “weed scab” to cover her skin.
Exactly what we want to accomplish in our gardens!
I learned about this idea from a video/documentary called “Back to Eden.” You can watch it for free here.
After watching the video, I wanted to learn more so I searched and found several amazing books about the concept of keeping the ground covered. Here are the ones I have read…they all have GREAT gardening principles in them.
Can you tell that I have a nerdy reading habit. 😉
“Weedless gardening” by Lee Reich
“The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book” by Ruth Stout
“One straw revolution” by Masanobu Fukuoka and Larry Korn
“Plowman’s Folly” by Edward H. Faulkner
“Grow a sustainable diet” by Cindy Conner
“No-till gardening” by Caleb Warnock
Hopefully this gives you enough information so you can learn more about this amazing method.
But if your thirst for knowledge and nerdy quests for research 🙂 are anything like mine, this will only be a starting point!
If you are not quite as nerdy as I am when it comes to garden learning, I will sum up the information for you now.
You can thank me later. 🙂
The common theme between all of these books, website and the video are to KEEP THE EARTH COVERED. They all do it a little bit differently but the principle behind it is to provide a covering for your garden.
The various materials you can use are grass clippings, hay, straw, dry leaves, finished compost, paper, wood chips, etc. Basically anything that is dry that is from plant material that will decompose over time.
One note about grass clippings: because they are not dry when they are put on the garden, you will need to put them in a thin layer so they will be able to DRY OUT. Otherwise you will have a very stinky garden! Once the layer is dry (as in the next time you mow) you can add another thin layer. It takes a bit of patience but is a great FREE way to cover your garden with something that most people were going to throw away anyway. Just be careful about any chemicals you put on your lawn…you definitely don’t want those in your garden!
The layer that you put on your garden needs to be very thick. Much more thick than you might think it should be. 4-6 inches is a good amount to shoot for.
I had a friend that watched the Back to Eden video and wanted to try the method under her raspberries to prevent weeds. She told me that it didn’t work. But when I asked her some questions it became apparent that the real problem was that her layer of wood chips was not thick enough. And she put it on tall, established weeds (and while you can put your mulch layer on top of established weeds, you just need to flatten them to the ground before you cover them. And depending on the strength of the weed, they may still get through the mulch layer. If the weeds are very strong, it would be better to remove the weeds first, possibly add a paper layer, and then put the thick mulch layer on top.)
I have tried this method in my garden. I used to spend SO MUCH TIME weeding and still never being able to stay ahead of them. Then we put paper and grass clippings just in the paths and suddenly I felt like I could breathe. Like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. What a relief!
I will write more about this important topic later. For now, I wanted to share with you the basics. Use a THICK layer of organic material on top of your garden and you will have a drastic reduction in weeds, need to water less, and have much more fertile soil! Sounds great to me!